Over the years, the DMV has boasted some outstanding athletes in various sports. Many have gone to become high school and college All Americans and even professionals.
Yet through time, many are forgotten. So in an effort to preserve the accomplishments and accolades of those former athletes and bring them together, Lloyd Mayes decided to start Athletes in Action (AIA) in 2015.
“It seemed like the only time that we were able to connect and get together was at funerals,” said Mays, AIA president and a Cardozo High School and American University graduate. “So a group of us got together and decided to form Athletes in Action. We wanted to honor the former athletes and coaches in the DMV by bringing [them] together for an annual event.”
AIA started slowly and had 15-20 members the first year. Then slowly but surely, it grew each year in numbers and expanded its mission. The organization celebrated its ninth anniversary with close to 200 attendees at this year’s event.
The event was held at East Potomac Park in Northwest, Washington. Former athletes, coaches and family members in attendance sat under tents, told stories, enjoyed the old school music, hand danced, providing for great fellowship.
It is jokingly said among members that the only admission price to attend, is that you have to “tell two lies” about your accomplishments or performances during your career
Some of the attendees included such legends as Larry Spriggs, former Howard University standout and member of the world champion Los Angeles Lakers; Hall of Fame Coach Bob Headen (H.D Woodson and Cardozo); former Howard University baseball player and retired sportscaster Glenn Harris.
Perhaps the most recognized attendee at this year’s event was Dave Bing. Bing starred at Spingarn High School before attending Syracuse University and later being drafted by the Detroit Pistons. Following a Hall of Fame NBA career, Bing transitioned into becoming successful as a businessman, then in politics as mayor of Detroit. Now, he’s head of The Bing Youth Abuse program, a community program for adolescents, ages 7-14 in Detroit, where he now makes his home.
“This is the first time that I have had a chance to attend this event,” said Bing, in between numerous requests to take photos with people and to talk on the phone to someone asking to speak to him. “For various reasons, I was invited, but was not able to make it in the past. To come back home and see people who I have not seen in years is very special. There is nothing like coming home and being a part of something like this. It makes me feel blessed and proud.”
Through the years, there has been a significant increase in participation from women. The July 16 event had the largest participation from women in the organization’s history.
Among the attendees were former high school track and field All Americans Tomi Rucker (Coolidge), Charlita Whitehead (H.D. Woodson), Carolyn Brinkley (Theodore Roosevelt and University of the District of Columbia), former professional race car driver Mean Billye Jean Armstrong and former Olympian Esther Stroy Harper.
While much of the focus is on the gathering of athletes, Mayes explained that AIA has evolved to greater heights.
“We have two other events,” he added. ”We now have an annual crab feast as a fundraiser that has grown leaps and bounds. Then we have a dinner and dance that is a fundraiser.”
Part of the fundraiser goes to deserving youth interested in attending college or trade schools.
“We are trying to attract and involve more young people to carry on the tradition of the Athletes in Action. It was a great turnout and we are pleased at where it has come.”